Day 13: Canazei to Sottoguda (86.7km, 2623m)

The day started off overcast as we once again attempted Sella pass. On the way up, an English speaker pulled up next to me (in his car) and said, "faster!" I looked at him and realized it was a car carrying bikes. These were the people doing the Italian passes Brett Lider-style. They would base themselves out of a town, ride a few passes, and then drive on to the next. "Where are you going today?" "We're doing the Sella Circuit." "We're going to Arraba and ranging further today. Where are you based out of?" Some people can't conceive of carrying their own lugguage on their bikes (and therefore not having a fixed base), so I took the easy way and told him we were based out of Canazei. He zoomed off in his car and I never saw him again.

It was here that I realized that Sella really was quite steep and got to the summit after Mike by a good 10 minutes. After a hot chocolate, I decided to press on while Mike waited for Roberto. Traffic was busy on the Sella circuit as I found myself stuck behind tourist busses on the descent, before starting up the climb to Passo Gardena (2121m). There, I got a call from Roberto saying he had turned around to make a phone call to his girlfriend. Well, there was not much to do about it except to keep going to Corvara, where I turned right again onto the road leading up to Passo Campolongo (1875m). As I exited the town of Corvara, rain started up again, and I quickly dove under the porch of a nearby house. Mike called me and told me he had seen no sign of Roberto and I told him what happened. He too, was caught in the rain and would wait it out and then catch up with me.

After a bit, the rain stopped and I rode out of town and over Passo Campolongo, an easy and gentle pass into the town of Arraba. There, I saw dark clouds coming off Pordoi and called Roberto to ask about conditions in Canazei. He told me it's raining, so I waited for Mike and then we had lunch before attempting Pordoi.

The weather still wasn't perfect, and we had to duck under the porches of a few rental apartments (a denizen of which let me into the building to use the toilet). But after a while I could see Mike was getting impatient and the rain wasn't getting any worse (or better), so we took a chance and just went for the pass.

We felt a few sprinkles as we climbed Passo Pordoi but go to the top without getting rained on and immediately began the descent to Canazei, where we had made arrangements to pick up our lugguage to move on. We paid our bills, put baggage back on the bikes, and started down the road towards Fedaia pass (2057m). The air was heavy with moisture as we made it slowly up, and the few sprinkles quickly turned into rain and mild hail just as we reached the first of the galleries. Mike was unhappy about doing so much not-riding today, but the rest of us didn't feel like getting terribly wet.

The waiting yielded clear results this time, and we went through a few more galleries before the long, lit tunnel to emerge from the other side onto Lake Fedaia. From there, we could see blue sky on the descent, which boosted our morale tremendously. Thoughts of staying at the summit hotels disappeared from my mind and we prepared for an immediate descent of the pass.

Jobst Brandt calls Fedaia the fastest road in the Dolomites for its long straight 13% grades, and knowing Roberto to be much faster at descents than I am, I provided directions: "At the bottom, you cross the bridge and there should be a town there, try to find a good hotel there."

We then rode the flat area to the end of the reservoir and then started the descent. Even with Jobst's warnings in my mind, I couldn't help but be surprised by how steep and fast Fedaia was. My cantilever brakes, which before the tour had been quiet even on loaded fast descents had become quite loud, and never being one to push descending speeds even in the best of times, I took it easy and did not exceed 70kph. Roberto, however broke 90kph easily.

The twist and turns eventually led over a bridge into the town of Sottoguda, where Roberto pointed me at a hotel. I looked at my altimeter, which read something in the neighborhood of 1200m, and said, "You have another 400m of descent to go." "Yes," replied Roberto, "But have you ever seen me pass up a chance to sleep high and cool?" Mike appeared to be happy just to not be in the same valley as Canazei, so I assented.

The hotel was an excellent value, charging us a mere 35 Euros each for dinner, breakfast and lodging. The day was late, and the dinner excellent. I slept well, knowing that we had done 5 passes that day.

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